What Does Bucs’ Latest Signing Mean for Rob Gronkowski?

Rob Gronkowski

Getty Rob Gronkowski's future remains up in the air after the Buccaneers recently signed Akiem Hicks to a big contract.

After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers invested $10 million in defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, it begs the question how little star tight end Rob Gronkowski would re-sign for.

The Bucs had $12.4 million of salary cap space, per Spotrac, going into the Hicks signing. Fortunately for Gronkowski and the Bucs, Hicks’ contract doesn’t take up $10 million of the remaining cap space. Hicks officially signed with the Bucs on Wednesday, June 1, after six seasons with the Chicago Bears.

Hicks’ contract eats up at least $6.5 million of that cap space based on his contract details, reported by Greg Auman of The Athletic. That means the Bucs have roughly $5.9 million in salary cap space remaining, which is less than the $8 million Gronkowski made in 2021 per Spotrac. The salary cap website lists Gronkowski free agent market value at $9.5 million annually.

Hick’s signing doesn’t nix Gronkowski coming back. ESPN’s Dan Graziano believes Gronkowski could still return to the Bucs.

“They are giving him the time to decide whether he wants to retire or whether he wants to come back and play,” Graziano said on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Wednesday, June 1. “There is optimism that he will ultimately decide to come back and run it back with Tom Brady one more time. But as of now, he remains undecided. [The Bucs] continue to wait.”

Gronkowski hasn’t dropped any hints lately via social media regarding his future. He most recently promoted his mother’ book on raising the Gronkowski brothers, and he honored late soldiers on Memorial Day.

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Bucs ‘Will Need’ Gronk for Super Bowl Run, Analyst Says

If Gronkowski doesn’t return, it could deliver a significant blow to the Bucs’ Super Bowl hopes as NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadlha described. Chadlha highlighted Gronkowski’s chemistry with Brady in the passing game, which goes back to their nine seasons together in New England.

“The Bucs’ offense has been loaded with playmakers since Brady’s arrival, but he often looks for Gronkowski when he needs a clutch play,” Chadlha wrote. “While the Bucs surely don’t need [Gronkowski] running around at OTAs at this time of year, they will need him come late July if they’re looking to make another run at a championship.”

Gronkowski had the second-most receiving touchdowns for the Bucs after Mike Evans last season. The star tight end also tallied the third-most receiving yards, 802, and fourth-most receptions, 55. That’s in just 12 games played, too.

In 2020, Gronkowski also finished second in touchdown catches for a season where he started slowly and focused on blocking. Gronkowski also finished third in receiving yards, 623, and tied for third in receptions, 45, on the team.


Closer Looks at Hicks’ Contract

While Hicks will make a $6.5 million base salary, he will also receive $1.5 million “in pre-game roster bonuses”, Auman wrote.

Hicks’ contract reaches $10 million if he earns another $2 million of incentives, Auman wrote. Those incentives come from playoff wins and making the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro, Auman reported.

Though Hicks has produced throughout his 10-year NFL career, he has made the Pro Bowl only once in 2018. He has 40.5 career sacks, 387 tackles, six forced fumbles and recoveries.

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